Despite somewhat inclusive visuals, this book can’t help feeling like it’s stuck in amber. For a true celebration of America...

MY FOURTH OF JULY

An exuberant, old-time–y celebration of the Fourth of July.

An energetic young child breathlessly narrates the day, from waking up bursting with excitement to conking out after the fireworks. In between, Spinelli’s nostalgic narrative hits all the expected notes. The child helps prepare the picnic (hot dogs and cherry pie, natch) and loads it into the little red wagon. A train festooned with bunting and pulled by a steam engine crosses Main Street. Once at the park, the family picnics and partakes in all the traditional Fourth of July activities, including face painting, sack racing, a concert in the bandstand, a visit to the zoo (this small-town park is extremely well-appointed), and, of course, the fireworks. Spinelli’s present-tense text combines a childlike voice (“Mama hands me a banana. I’m so excited I forgot to eat breakfast”) with poetic fervor (“My eyes cannot hold the wonders I see. My heart is cheering”). The only nods to patriotism are the abundant flags and mention of standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Day’s small town is a Norman Rockwell–esque place of white frame houses and unleashed, well-behaved dogs. The narrator and family present white, while the narrator’s best friend and some of the other festivalgoers are people of color.

Despite somewhat inclusive visuals, this book can’t help feeling like it’s stuck in amber. For a true celebration of America and its diversity, opt for Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Jason Chin’s Pie Is for Sharing (2018). (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4288-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Has to be said: It hits all the right notes.

A VERY MERCY CHRISTMAS

DiCamillo and illustrator Van Dusen collaborate again, this time on a holiday story that includes their beloved porcine heroine, Mercy Watson.

Though Stella, who lives next door to the Watsons, is determined to spread spur-of-the-moment Christmas spirit, when she goes door to door asking for neighbors to go caroling with her, no one is willing except for Mercy, General Washington the cat, and Maybelline the horse. The quartet’s loud and “not very musical” version of “Deck the Halls” brings out the neighbors for an accordion concert and an impromptu merry feast. In any other hands, this story might be too saccharine, but thanks to DiCamillo’s quirky and endearing characters and subtle use of scene, it feels like a bit of Christmas magic. Van Dusen’s distinct rosy-cheeked characters give life to the uniquely named neighbors. Perhaps the most powerful illustration shows the group hand in hand looking up at the stars. Readers’ perspective is from below them, forcing the eye up and into the beautiful night “above the tired and hopeful earth,” a pitch-perfect pairing with DiCamillo’s poetic text. This celebration of community lit from the spark of just one joyful child anchors this familiar, warm story. Stella is biracial, and most of her neighbors are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Has to be said: It hits all the right notes. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1360-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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